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Alive 12
DHS 20 Years Compo Demo
          This review focuses on the actual demo screens. The music and 
          graphic compo entries are not taken into account here, even if I 
          have my favourites amongst those contributions. However even the 
          demo screens only will make this a very long read so make sure 
          you sit comfortable and grab a beer to survive until the end 
          because here it comes, the 20 Years Compo Demo Review...

Loader and Reset Demo /
          This little program acts mainly as a loader, which loads the 
          intro and then the main menu. Secretly it also installs the 
          reset demo by setting resvalid ($426) to the magic value of 
          $31415926. In addition to that the resvector ($42A) is set to 
          the start of Leonard's code, which 1st two actions are setting 
          the SR to $2700 and setting a new SP, which is most important, 
          unless you want some strange things to happen. Anyway let's cut 
          the technical crap and continue with our review of the reset 
          Of course the reset screen is a fullscreen, and much to my 
          surprise it didn't display huge amounts of "2plane"-non-masked 
          "sprites" but something around 1300+ one plane dots scattered 
          over various planes, while playing music with a SID voice and 
          displaying a bit of text in another plane. Of course rasters are 
          used which is no big deal in a fullscreen. But the fact that a 
          SID voice is replayed while all that is happening in a full 
          overscan might blow you away. It is a brand new feature in a 
          fullscreen, and makes this demo technically interesting to say 
          the least. We bow our heads into the general direction of France 
          and praise the god of technical code, well done Leonard and of 
          course gwEm our master audio hero. Hmm, I wonder who did the 
          graphics in that screen :)
          Damn, just when you thought you had finished the review the 
          screen starts to collapse and the borders aren't opened properly 
          anymore... What the hell Leonard? However after some seconds we 
          are back on track and the display is ok again...

Intro / DHS
          The intro plays a very short chiptune while displaying a great 
          picture by our hyperactive master artist C-Rem, showing a 
          disintegrating face wearing a gasmask with a broken eyeglass. 
          Mirrored in the still intact left eyeglass of the gasmask you 
          can see some sort of bomb going off and some other guy with a 
          gasmask. After a short while the screen fades out and is 
          replaced by the main menu. The graphic is ace like any other C-
          Rem picture and I am glad we didn't took it for this issue of 
          Alive, because it fits the DHS 20 year compo demo like a glove.

Main Menu / Jace
          The main menu shows a little blue alien avatar that can be 
          controlled by the cursor keys and runs with 4 pixels per frame 
          to the left or right. Of course the screen is running smoothly 
          even if some of the front layers of the parallax scrollers are a 
          tad too fast for my old eyes, anyway the main menu works fine, 
          only a few graphical glitches appear under certain 
          circumstances. If you move your avatar to the most right (or 
          left) position in the playfield and try to run in the same 
          direction you might see some of the most right (or left) clouds 
          disappear while you try to move in this direction. Apart from 
          that it seems to work quite well.
          The 1st impression about main menu was nice, but it looks 
          somehow unfinished, perhaps the tile maps could have offered a 
          bit more variation, perhaps it's the ability to jump which is 
          Anyway the menu serves it's purpose and is surely a nice piece 
          of code, a bit more polishing wouldn't have hurt though, but 
          it's still cool.

Rebirth / MJJ
          The MJJ screen starts off with an awesome tune by Floopy and a 
          white screen, then a very dark picture is fading in showing an 
          evil clown with a bloody scythe and a Fuji written with blood on 
          his forehead, the same clown is shown in front of a clouded sky 
          in the background again swinging his scythe over masses of 
          kneeling bodies. An inscription reads "20 years of domination". 
          I wonder if the clown stands for MJJ dominating the Atari scene 
          :), I guess we will have to ask our grand pixelmaster C-Rem for 
          After a while the screen fades to white again and with a short 
          delay a blue screen appears with some 1 plane pseudo raytrace 
          effect. Of course it's "only" an offset effect but the result is 
          really stunning. A pattern is scrolling in a distorted way in 
          the background and gets viewed and reflected through several 
          bubbles in the foreground. Since Tobe uses only every other line 
          inside the bubbles he can easily fake a front- and backside 
          reflection, the result however is really stunning. The whole 
          effect is accompanied by some scrolling one plane patterns in 
          the background and a nicely arranged screen layout.
          This screen really rules for the idea and implementation and of 
          course for bringing together newskool effect and oldskool speed, 
          of course this screen runs in one vertical blank, so we really 
          got everything a good demo needs:
          - nice and original idea
          - cool soundtrack
          - awesome pixels
          - decent frame rate
          - perfect design
          You can listen and watch the alternating bubble reflections for 
          hours or press space to exit at any time. Once you pressed space 
          a logo is displayed reading "powered by Tobe" then the screen 
          fades to black and you get back to the main menu. Well the music 
          could have been faded out but otherwise there is nothing to 
          complain. Well done MJJ!

Atari Freaks
          From the island Reunion a nice little plasma screen was supplied 
          for the DHS compo. It features code by Jace, a logo by C-Rem and 
          a stunning tune by Marcer. The demo itself is nicely designed 
          and shows alternating plasmas with a nice and tasteful oldskool 
          feeling. In addition to that a scroller tells you about the 
          credits and some other stuff. Sure a plasma is no killer FX 
          anymore in 2005 but I have to admit I really like the screen, 
          especially for the nice transitions and the overall design.

          This contribution is mainly a very cool module from Marcer 
          accompanied by a scroller and some graphics by Evil. There is 
          really not much to tell about that screen. It starts with a big 
          "Marcer" logo then a static blue vortex appears with a movie 
          like scroller on top. I guess the code was done in a hurry and 
          there is nothing special about it but the tune really roxx even 
          if there is some white noise present in some of the samples.

Hidden Screen 
"Donald Fakk"
          You can access the hidden screen by moving your little avatar 
          between the Marcer and the NoExtra door on the left side of the 
          playfield. You should see small blue dome in the background 
          containing a sketched city or something. Just stop in front of 
          that dome and press space.
          The hidden screen starts of with a nice dragon-baby picture by 
          Timbral and a very nice tune. The hidden screen is actually a 
          jukebox containing some old tunes by a guy called Donald Fakk 
          from S.O.T.E. (Scum of the Earth) who also wrote the famous 
          S.O.T.E. Tracker which combined big potential with a non user-
          friendly interface. The funny thing about that is that Donald 
          worked later as a usability designer :) Anyway it seems the 
          songs and perhaps also the replay sources he promised to Evil 
          and Grazey in June 2002 on the DHS BBS found their way into this 
          hidden screen. 
          The screen is nothing special it just contains a menu, a 
          rotating starfield tunnel and a small one plane scroller. The 
          main content is surely the music here and there's a lot of it. 
          The jukebox contains 15 tunes in total, which feature SID voices 
          and digidrums, which is not bad for 1992. Of course Grazey had 
          to rework the S.O.T.E. player which was not very OS friendly to 
          say the least, since it was optimised for speed like many other 
          players from that era.

          The 1st of three Noextra screens is mainly a modplayer with some 
          sample oscilloscopes and a one plane scroller in the bottom 
          border. The tune is not bad but its spoiled by the heavy static 
          which is also seems to be louder than the actual sample replay 
          itself. Well the screen would be ok as a simple oldskool hello 
          if the sample replay wouldn't be that bad or if there would be 
          more happening on screen, this way it's not really a top notch 
          production but hey, everybody needs to start sometime :)

          The Stax part of the demo starts of with a stunning stax logo 
          with very nicely designed letters and some electric sparkling 
          around it. However I guess Lotek Style will go berserk when he 
          reads the words "please wait a moment" below the logo, 
          especially after releasing his earth shattering article about 
          deadly sins in demo design in Alive 11.
          After a while a screen appears with some partial overscan in the 
          top and bottom border while the main part of the screen stays 
          normal. The top contains a purple scroller, the bottom a 
          distorter with some fake parallaxed background. The non overscan 
          portion of the screen contains lots of rotating 3d dots and some 
          sprites which resemble the word "Atari ST" also from time to 
          time one plane flash inscription appears reading "20th 
          anniversary Megademo" in changing colours.
          When you press space a nice little vector screen with a rotating 
          Atari ST case drawn with wireframe graphics appears in medium 
          resolution. Even if the vectors seem to be one bitplane only it 
          seems there is an invisible dithered background graphic hidden 
          beneath it which creates raster bar like effects on the 
          wireframe vectors. Beside the vectors you can read "The Atari 
          ST" on top of the screen and "20 years young!!!" which is 
          partially displayed in the lower border.

MarSTial Arts / DHS
          Martial Arts is perhaps the screen with the best design and an 
          perfect sync between music and effects. It's a bit sad that the 
          80 KB limit lead to a lot of graphic that couldn't be used due 
          to the size limitation; on the other hand it prevented the 
          screen from taking years to be finished :).
          The demo begins with a DHS logo made of three (bonsai?) trees 
          and some strange noises, perhaps birds and water? Then a 
          shuriken shaped blurred line vector is shambling over the 
          screen. The music gets an eastern touch and you see a shuriken 
          in a wodden plank and a swinging logo reading "MarSTial Arts". 
          The screen is faded out smoothly and we get some scrolling one 
          plane background with yin yang and other symbols on it and some 
          disting credits accompanied by funny pictures of Timbral, Crazy 
          Q, Evil and Gizmo. Even the fading is well planned it gives the 
          impression ob becoming transparent, nice colour palette 
          Then some text is displayed word by word in perfect sync with 
          some ear disturbing plings :) anyway Nolan Bushnell himself is 
          scrolling in, telling a short history of Atari, accompanied by 
          the plings of a vector pong in the background... Too bad that 
          the "ball" is not synced to the plings in the music.
          Suddenly the pong game begins to spin in 3D while still playing. 
          Afterwards a Sinusblob is displayed. The next FX is called 
          "Parallax in a Box" and shows some distorted "vertical raster" 
          like bars. Then a twisted sinus bar is shown until the screen 
          fades to black again and the end scroller appears. 
          In the end scroller DHS promises to make another version of the 
          screen containing all graphics and ideas that had been planned 
          but had to be left out due to memory issues.

Spot Light on the 520ST /


          Arf, what the hell? A flickering spotlight on a flickering ST 
          graphic? Well this screen is surely not more than a small hello 
          and I really doubt it will win any of the top positions. It 
          looks like Simon Sunnyboy was a bit busy with other things, 
          anyway the effect is quite old those flickering sprites have 
          been used a lot in console games on the PC Engine and MegaDrive 
          to either make weapons appear much bigger than they are or to 
          add some kind of transparency effect. Here it is used to 
          simulate a non bumped bumpmap :) 
          The whole thing has surely been done in a few hours and is coded 
          in GFA Basic. Well not much to tell otherwise, the great Marcer 
          tune is perhaps a reason to revisit this screen. 

Atari Legend
          Zorro 2 presents an, hmmm.... Amiga Crackto? At least it looks 
          like that. This screen exactly feels like one, especially the 
          crystal clear mod adds a lot to that impression. It might well 
          be a screen composed with the DCK but this one has at least two 
          different code-paths. On the STE it replays a module and shows 
          left-right scrolling starts, while you get a chiptune and 
          rotating stars on a plain ST. Both versions contain a Byte 
          bender scroller and the bottom border is broken... There isn't 
          much to see apart from that. 

NoExtra 2
          The 2nd demo screen by NoExtra features some intro screens and a 
          fair amount of design, even though it is nothing special I have 
          to admit I like that screen, for its overall composition it's 
          like an oldskool dentro with a tad of design. But I ask myself 
          why should someone announce his prod as being STEem and SainT 
          compatible? Isn't it the emulator's job to be compatible with 
          the all prods that can be executed on the emulated system?
          Anyway the dentro starts with some ancient but still nice tune 
          and a compatibility announcement, which is faded out and 
          replaced by a NoExtra logo which is soon accompanied by a one 
          plane filled vector rectangle and a one plane 8 pixel high bit-
          bender scroller.
          Afterwards follows the main screen. Again lower overscan is 
          used, another byte bender some small 1 plane sprites and a 
          plasma. Not much else to say...

NoExtra 3
          The 3rd NoExtra Screen starts off with a nicely drawn DHS compo 
          logo which starts swinging up and down after a while. Then the 
          main screen is displayed this time using top and bottom overscan 
          to display two nicely painted logos. The middle of the screen is 
          filled with a plasma and another one plane byte bender scroller. 
          After a while the whole screen starts swinging up and down.
          No burner but far better than many other screens which have been 
          released in 2005, and I'd say those NoExtra guys have potential. 
          The graphics of Mister.A are quite well done and all screens 
          have some style which makes them look quite nice. I am not sure 
          if new school fanatics will share my opinion but grew up with 
          screens like that and I really like them.
          As a minor flaw this screen doesn't restore the palette 
          correctly when you exit it standalone.

          The Creators screen starts off with some technical "flaws" right 
          from the beginning. It's only a minor flaw but it's noticeable 
          and it could have been avoided. Let me try to explain what I am 
          talking about. Right after starting the screen and before the 
          palette is faded out it does some frequency changes that seem to
          open the border for at least one vbl. Perhaps it's some testing for
          the shifter type, perhaps something else, but these measures should
          normally be performed completely invisible to the viewer.
          (D-Bug told me later that this is only performed to restore the
          screen, because it sometimes get's fucked up by the loader.)
          Afterwards the colours are faded to black and a small slideshow 
          displaying some text and an 8 bit Atari logo with lots of 
          rasters are shown. I wonder why they used this logo instead of 
          the one from the ST era.
          Anyway a bit later the main screen is started and the 2nd flaw 
          appears. It's basically the same thing, the borders are opened 
          while you can still see the graphic on screen before it should 
          appear there, giving an ugly flash also during later colour 
          The screen consists of a seemingly one plane byte bender with 
          variable scrollspeeds, later it turns out the scroller uses in 
          fact three planes, even if everybody will assume it's a two bitplane 
          Scroller. What's really nice about that scroller is the fact that 
          it is using a proportional font, with varying letter widths.
          In addition to that a partial overscan is used and some line wise
          palette animated "graphics" are "scrolling" in the background, due
          due to some perspective arrangement of the coloured stripes you get
          a fake 3d impression.
          The background colours and patterns change from time to time and 
          vary a lot in quality and design. 
          When the screen exits you get those overscan pixel garbage on 
          screen again, again proper fading would have solved that 
          problem, which is a pity since it's so easy to do.
          Overall it's a nice screen but the badly timed colour fades drag 
          it down a bit. Also the demo feels a bit unfinished with only 
          that 3 plane byte bending scroller you should have lots of CPU 
          left even if it is capable to run at different scrollspeeds and 
          uses several source buffers as it seems. Of course we have at 
          least a partial overscan which is a plus for the screen and it 
          contains several machine handles, for example it runs on a 
          Falcon as well. That's pretty nice. Could have been a top screen 
          with a bit more focus on basic craftsmanship, also the 3D effect 
          which is mentioned in the scroller would have lifted the screen. 
          It would be nice to see a completely finished version of it even 
          if the deadline and voting is long over. However I guess that 
          won't happen since Nerve's Falcon just died :( and he was 
          responsible for delivering the 3D part...

Twenty Years Atari ST /
          The Paradox screen starts with a medium resolution graphics 
          which uses some colour flicker technique to display at least 8 
          colours per scanline. If I count right there are four colour 
          switches per vertical blank, above a logo or its mirror image. 
          The whole thing is accompanied by a cheering crowd sample, which 
          might not be everybody's taste.
          Afterwards an awesome chiptune starts and Ra presents us a full 
          overscan with scrollers and a small volume meter. When I 1st saw 
          the huge font by ZWF at D.A.S., I never thought it would look 
          that great. However the combination with the small one plane 
          scrollers in the background and the nicely chosen colours make 
          the whole screen a real eye candy.
          Along with overscan, sync-scrolling the screen features digi-
          drums and the possibility which wasn't used to display 16 
          colours in front of the 1 plane background. A pity ZWF didn't 
          use enough colours on the font. Well so much for the 
          communication between coders and graphic artists :)
          If there is light there is always shadow as well and one 
          downside of the screen is that it sometimes refuses to work at 
          all. In a few cases you get a black screen with some garbage 
          noise when starting it, besides it sometimes doesn't open some 
          borders for a single frame. But this occurs only once after ages 
          of perfect scrolling and it's hardly noticeable.
          Overall surely one of the top screens of the compo for me.

          What can I say about this screen? It contains some nice graphics 
          and tells a nice and in some parts also funny story but it will 
          surely bore the coders amongst us. There are no technical FX to 
          be seen and the whole "demo" resembles more a slideshow than a 
          demo. The best thing about it besides some of the graphics is 
          surely the music by Dma-Sc. 
          Even if the text display in wide parts of the demo is much to 
          slow for my taste, the demo is nicely designed and it has its 
          charm. What I completely dislike is the fact that it doesn't 
          manage to restore the original resolution and desktop colours on 
          exit. Things like that shouldn't happen anymore after 20 years 
          of time to investigate a machine...
          What I really liked were the ideas about the memories of our little
          grey machine, especially the "blocky and jerky" memories bit made me

Gizmo / DHS
          As it seems Gizmo tried to do too much on the small ST. The 
          rendered frames look awesome but the frame rate reminds more of 
          a slideshow than of a demo. In addition to that the screen 
          sometimes displays an ugly rendering bug which draws the wrong 
          scanlines here and there. Some precalculation of the images 
          would have helped to speed up the whole thing, and it could have 
          rescued the screen even though I know newskoolers like it 
          realtime. But it would have been possible to render the next 
          object while the 1st one is still shown with two animation 
          buffers. anyway the screen leaves us with a nice zak, a slow 1px 
          per vbl scroller in two bitplanes and mixed feelings...

          Wow, what a renderer... This screen is amazing, I love the 
          design. You have to watch it to see what I mean. To my knowledge 
          it's pretty innovative on the ST, I can't recall to have seen 
          something similar yet. Well done Damo, a pity you were too late 
          for the deadline, I guess it would have ranked quite high 

Intro 22 / The Bits Club
          Well the usual TBC stuff accompanied with nicer music this time. 
          The zak still sucks but at least its no longer random generated. 
          It seems TBC is improving in tiny steps. Perhaps we will see 
          some really cool screens in 20 years or so :)
Cyclone for Alive, 2005-12-26
Alive 12